Will the Turkey incident haunt Red Bull?

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - MAY 30:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing reacts as he crashes out after colliding with his team mate Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing during the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at Istanbul Park on May 30, 2010, in Istanbul, Turkey.  (Photo by Malcolm Griffiths/Getty Images)

Early shower for Sebastian Vettel after his collision with team mate Mark Webber in Turkey

Jun.06 (Daniel Chalmers) The high profile and dramatic collision between the Red Bull Racing drivers, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, not only cost them the Turkish GP but could potentially end up being the turning point of the 2010 season

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - MAY 30:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing crashes out after colliding with his team mate Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing during the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at Istanbul Park on May 30, 2010, in Istanbul, Turkey.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Sebastian Vettel

Will the Istanbul incident impact on the 2010 title ambitions of Red Bull and their drivers?

All Formula 1 championships have that one major turning point which many agree was the pivotal moment which swung the championship one way or the other.

If you look back to last season it was the British GP when the season completely changed. We saw an end to Brawn GP’s total dominance, and Red Bull began to make a fight for the championship, but ultimately lost in the end.

In 2008 many regard Nelson Piquet Jnr’s deliberate crash in Singapore, which led to the events that cost Felipe Massa race victory, as the turning point. Massa would have been champion if he had won that race.

Then there was 2007 at Hungary when civil war broke out fully at McLaren when Fernando Alonso blocked Lewis Hamilton in the pits and Alonso supposedly blackmailed Ron Dennis over the spygate affair. McLaren never recovered from the repercussions of that weekend.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22 leads Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22. Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Friday 5 October 2007.

In 2007 McLaren were hampered by the internal feud between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso

It lost them both championships to Ferrari. This is a feat which Red Bull has to avoid now. Although when there is a big disagreement within the team it’s so easy for things to spiral out of control as we saw in 2007.

If the Red Bulls hadn’t crashed into each other it’s likely that the positions at the front wouldn’t have changed. The McLarens had more straight line speed thanks to their superior Mercedes power and F-duct but couldn’t get close enough to comfortably overtake the Red Bulls.

If the positions on lap 39 at the front (the lap before you know what happened) had remained the same this is how the constructor’s championship would have looked:

Red Bull – 199
McLaren Mercedes – 156
Ferrari – 148

As you can see if Red Bull had held on to their 1-2 position they would have extended their lead in the constructor’s championship. Not only that, but their lead would be looking pretty handy too.

However thanks to those few seconds of pure madness the complexion of the 2010 championship has completely changed:

McLaren/Mercedes – 172
Red Bull – 171
Ferrari – 146

(L to R): Second placed Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren congratulated race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren in parc ferme. Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday 30 May 2010.

McLaren benefitted big time on all fronts after the raging bulls incident in Turkey

Instead of Red Bull comfortably leading the championship by 43 points, they are now trailing McLaren by a single point. So that is effectively a 44 point swing in McLaren’s favour due to the Red Bulls going on a collision course. At the end of the season that 44 point swing could make all the difference as to which garage has an end of season party in Abu Dhabi.

Furthermore, Red Bull have now lost their momentum, which had been gathering alarming pace in Spain and Monaco. Instead, they have now gifted that momentum straight to the McLaren boys.

This result has now given McLaren a huge unexpected boast, which they will thrive on in the next two races in Canada and Valencia. McLaren have also taken confidence from the fact that Red Bull’s civil war could help them in the championship.

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren. Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday 30 May 2010.

Jenson Button clearly happy how things turned out in Istanbul

Jenson Button told British newspapers: “When you disagree with someone like that and have a coming together, you might take your eye off the ball a bit and you might think the most important person to beat is your team-mate,”

Button added: “That could really hurt your performance. But they might be fine when they get to Canada. I hope not.”

McLaren will also be very pleased with their pace in the Turkish GP. If you exclude turn 8, where the Red Bulls were superior, McLaren had the faster car.

Canada and Valencia should suit McLaren even more with longer straights, and less fast corners where the Red Bulls can stretch their legs. This is why Red Bull really needed to win the Turkish GP, and why losing it in the way they did will be even more galling.

All of a sudden from what should have been a strong position, Red Bull could find themselves playing catch-up to McLaren. Had Red Bull sealed their 1-2 finish, it would have just been a case of defending their lead on their upcoming weaker tracks.

Now they are playing damage limitations to try and stop McLaren from extending their lead at the next two races. All of a sudden the philosophy has changed completely.

(L to R): Race winner Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing celebrates with second placed team mate Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing. Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Race, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday 16 May 2010.

Red Bull's recent highs of Monaco have disappeared

There is also the question of how the tension and damaged morale from Turkey will effect the team’s on-track performance. This is in complete contrast to the jubilant mood and high morale the team would have taken to Canada, had they won those 43 points on Sunday.

The incident could also prove a major turning point in the drivers’ championship. Imagine if Webber had left more room and Vettel had been able to make the move stick, and the Red Bulls had finished in that order.

The points positions between the Red Bull drivers would look like this:

1. Sebastien Vettel 103
2. Mark Webber 96

Instead the situation now looks like this:

1. Mark Webber 93
5. Sebastien Vettel 78

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - MAY 30:  Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing reacts on the podium after finishing third during the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at Istanbul Park on May 30, 2010, in Istanbul, Turkey.  (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber

After Turkey Mark webber leads the Championship but his face on the podium says it all

This results in a 22 points swing in the Aussie’s favour (albeit with the McLaren drivers closing on him). However it’s not just the points and championship positions that matter but also the psychology involved.

Had Webber been softer in his defence and let Vettel through, the psychological advantage would have shifted to Sebastien. Vettel would have left Istanbul flying high and full of confidence heading to Montreal. The immense amount of pressure that was on Vettel’s young shoulders coming into the event would have now been lifted. Vettel would have been looking very good for the championship with more wins probably following.

Webber’s hard defence on Vettel may not have endeared him to the higher hierarchy of Red Bull, but in terms of his credentials of winning the championship, he’s just ticked one of the crucial boxes on the list.

If Webber had resisted and just let Vettel through he may as well have just said to Christian Horner “alright mate I will be Sebastien’s number two.” Instead he held his ground.

L to R: David Coulthard 2nd, Winner Mika Hakkinen and Jacques Villeneuve, 3rd and World Champion European GP, Jerez, Spain, 26 October 1997

Mika Hakkinen's first Grand Prix victory was a turning point in his career

Webber’s previous team mate David Coulthard, was asked by McLaren and, allowed Mika Hakkinen to overtake him to win on two consecutive occasions. The first time was in Jerez 97. At that time Hakkinen had never won in Formula 1. The fact that Coulthard allowed Mika through to win allowed him to get the monkey off his back, and from that moment he stepped up to a completely new level. He went on to win the next two championships.

For DC this was very damaging for his career as this allowed Mika Hakkinen to assume the number 1 status, which Coulthard was then never able to change back. Had Coulthard denied Hakkinen race victory David’s career could have turned out much differently.

Webber has now effectively told his team that he will never settle for being Vettel’s number two. He has now also increased the amount of pressure on his young team mate even further.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 01:  Sebastian Vettel (L) of Germany and Red Bull Racing celebrates with second placed team mate Mark Webber  (R)of Australia and Red Bull Racing in parc ferme after winning the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit on November 1, 2009 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Sebastian Vettel; Mark Webber

Can Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber regaing their camaraderie which was the envy of the pit lane

Vettel could well be very tentative next time he starts behind Webber on the grid, and knows the only way to win will be to have to pass him. He will be very wary of a repeat incident.

One wonders if this will make Vettel push harder in qualifying, making himself more likely to hit the wall in Montreal. It’s certainly a possibility.

Webber has now made himself very difficult for Vettel to beat, who now has a massive challenge on his hands to beat his team mate.

In conclusion Red Bull have been the class act when it comes to their car in 2010. On the other hand their self destruct button is starting to show signs of heavy wear. However in Istanbul it may have just taken a whack too far.

• Will Red Bull recover from the “Turkey incident”?
• Will Vettel manage to beat Webber in the drivers title race?
• Who is set to gain the most from Red Bull’s failing?

  • Arthur

    Webber will still be at P1 during qualifying. Most people thought that RB’s are slower than McLarens in straights but put in mind the straight line is just 11s more or less. Webber will be the champion this year…